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January 15, 1968

The Caduceus Motif and The Guinea Worm

Author Affiliations

Oakland, Calif

JAMA. 1968;203(3):233-234. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03140030065023

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To the Editor:—  Doctor Bunn's informative article on "Origin of the Caduceus Motif" (202:615, 1967) fails to mention that many authorities (Belding, D.L.: Textbook of Clinical Parasitology, ed 3, New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1965, p 551) question the reptilian nature of the "fiery serpent" which afflicted the Israelites in the wilderness (Numbers 21:6-11), considering it rather to have been an outbreak of infection with the guinea worm, Dracunculus medinensis. In this view, Moses, when he "made a serpent of brass and put it on a pole," was in actuality providing a visual aid, to instruct his people in the removal of the parasite.Though frowned upon by modern practice, the ancient method of extraction of the guinea worm is still widely used in Africa, India, and other endemic areas. The worm, caught on the end of a split stick around which it is slowly rolled out of the skin, bears